Iwan Roberts: Cardiff City boss Neil Warnock has leaders up and running in the early stages
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With just three games played in the Championship there are three clubs left with a 100pc record, one of which doesn’t surprise – and that’s Wolves.
However, the starts by both Ipswich and Cardiff have probably shocked many people as I don’t think anyone, even their own fans, would have expected them to be in the top three after three games but there they are, first and third respectively.
The season is still in its infancy and none of these three clubs will be getting carried away, but winning breeds confidence and once you get that bit of momentum going, anything is possible – just look at what happened to Huddersfield last season after the Terriers made a terrific start to their campaign.
Whatever you think of Neil Warnock, he knows how to build a squad capable of winning promotion from this division, having done it with both Sheffield United and QPR in the last 11 years. Once again, he looks – after a busy summer recruiting free transfers to the Welsh capital – to have got the formula spot on to try and win his eighth promotion of his very long managerial career.
His Cardiff side look so much fitter and stronger than they did last season and that’s been one of the reasons they’ve made this very good start. Having been through one of Neil’s pre-seasons many years ago I know first hand how hard his players will have worked to get as fit as they possibly can in those six weeks before the first game of the season.
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I did over 20 pre-seasons in my career and I have to say Neil’s was brutal, one of the toughest I’ve gone through, but boy did I benefit after it.
He was never one for running long distances; he didn’t believe in that. In fact, I think the longest run we did was 800 metres, which doesn’t sound a lot, I know. He’d send his staff out to find the nearest 400m track and the longest hill they could find – and living in Huddersfield you had some proper steep long hills to choose from.
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He would punish us on that running track – 400m runs after 400m runs, then, when you thought that was it for the day, he’d throw a big hill run just to finish you off before returning the next day to do it all over again.
I have seen Cardiff three times already this season and I’m not saying they’re going to finish in the top two, but one thing’s for sure, they won’t be the easy touch they were last season.
My former club Wolves have made a very good start to the season under new manager Nuno Santo and were one of my tips to finish in the top two. They’ve had three big wins, against promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough at home and away at Derby and Hull. They’ve spent big, attracting some young talent from Portugal adding to the experience of the likes of John Ruddy and Ryan Bennett and they look to have got the mix of youth and experience spot on. But as I said it’s still very early doors – and one may have to give this weekend with Cardiff travelling to Molineux.
After City’s disappointment of losing on Sunday to Sunderland in Daniel Farke’s first home league game it didn’t take too long for the lads to put right what went wrong against Simon Grayson’s men. Having dropped into the bottom three after Tuesday’s results, the lads responded brilliantly by beating QPR 2-0 and setting up tomorrow’s trip to Villa Park superbly.
I think a special mention has to go to on-loan Harrison Reed after he scored his first goal for the club, and what a wonderful strike it was.
Villa have had a torrid start to the season, winning just one point from their opening three games. I witnessed their defeat to Cardiff last Saturday and they were shocking – absolutely dreadful. They looked slow, lethargic and lacked ideas and Steve Bruce was quick to point out after the game that was as bad a performance as he’s had from his players since he arrived.
Having lost on their last three visits to Villa Park I get the feeling after Wednesday night’s first three points of the season that Norwich can go across to the Midlands and come back with three points. I think playing away from home this season will suit the way Norwich are trying to play.